What’s in a Name?

At the beginning of a new year, it can be tempting to think about a bit of a re-brand. If ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, what about a name change just to shake things up?

It can work. You may never have heard of Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web. But you are no doubt familiar with Yahoo, which is what it changed its name to in 1995.

On the other hand, look at the big brands that have taken a tumble when they have tried a name change. The Royal Mail famously became Consignia in 2001 – and just as famously quietly went back to the old name just 12 months later.

For businesses in the funeral sector, their name is their reputation. Many funeral directors have a lineage stretching back several generations and it is why, even though hundreds of them are now in the hands of national chains, they have kept the name that local people know and respect.

It is also why the oldest celebrant organisation in the UK, the Institute of Civil Funerals (IoCF), is proudly staying with the name, despite briefly considering a change in 2020.


It is a name that says everything about its reputation.

The Institute of Civil Funerals is unique because only one organisation in any industry can have the right to be an Institute and the name comes with the responsibility of being a ‘professional body of the highest standing’. It is a protected term at Companies House and any other celebrant organisation using the term does so illegitimately.

An Institute also has to demonstrate that its activities are regulated and that it is committed to supporting training.

As a result, IoCF welcomes celebrants who have already achieved the highest qualification and want to offer the best possible service to the families in their care. The Institute itself is proud to be the only organisation committed solely to civil funerals; that is, funerals driven by the wishes, beliefs and values of the deceased and their family, sitting between a religious service and a humanist funeral.

What would a ‘good’ celebrant mean for you? A survey was published in September 2019 called ‘Funeral Experts by experience: what matters to them’ by Dr Julie Rugg, from the University of York and Dr Sarah Jones, from Full Circle Funerals. They interviewed people who had arranged a funeral to find out their experiences – including the use of a celebrant. Some respondents spoke positively about celebrants who created a truly personal service, who worked closely with all family members and made suggestions all of which were appropriate for the deceased and the family. Unfortunately, there were others who remembered that the celebrant had got names and even genders wrong, who failed to consult the family or to guide them and who left them feeling as though they were on a conveyor belt.

IoCF is keen to set the bar high for its members because it is convinced that, one day, all celebrants will be regulated and the highest standards will be a requirement. That day cannot come too soon for chair of IoCF’s Council of Management, Sue Holden.

The ‘Funeral experts by experience’ survey shows what people want from a celebrant, but it also confirms that some celebrants just don’t meet the mark.

Why should families have to put up with that when they are already vulnerable through grief?

We admit we set tough standards for our members. But we balance that with great support through peer review, workshops and a mentoring scheme so that every family using an IoCF celebrant is cared for with compassion and complete professionalism.’

So, it is important to have not just a recognisable ‘brand’ but also to have integrity with your business name.

Change doesn’t always smell sweeter.

Institute of Civil Funerals

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